Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Mitsubishi has done a great job with the 2014 Outlander; it's the same wheelbase, length and track, but has more interior room. If you need a 7-passenger crossover, and you want the best fuel mileage you can find, Outlander is the call. It gets five miles per gallon more than the Sorento, 27 mpg Combined city and highway versus 22 mpg Combined with 2WD, according to EPA estimates. The Sorento has sexier styling, but the Outlander is super smooth even with the base four-cylinder. 

The 2014 Outlander has a new engine, new rear suspension, new floor plan, new interior, new glass, and new sheet metal. The skin is totally different, from the previous Outlander. Gone is the striking shark mouth, which was so 2011. Grilles aren't so much in-your-face any more. Mitsubishi isn't the only manufacturer to redefine bold, lately. Nowadays, bold seems to be another mile per gallon. Not that we're knocking the focus. Sometimes you just can't win with critics. 

We can't say anything snarky about the Outlander's new styling. We can't find any dynamic words. The lines aren't cluttered or gratuitous. They deliver a good 0.33 coefficient of drag (thanks largely to the loss of the shark mouth). No more standard roof rails, and that helps aero. The headlights are tidy, and the front fascia isn't big and bland. Overall, it looks substantial for families. 

Let's say we're not along for the ride, in the Outlander's press kit, when the second word describes the styling as breathtaking. Oops, we just said something snarky. But nobody on the sidewalk is going have their breath stolen by the new Outlander. It's not likely they'll even notice. 

The new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is single overhead-cam, formerly double-overhead cam. For decades, DOHC has meant high performance, but now that efficient performance matters more, SOHC might be the wave of back to the future. 

The improved 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, now with smart electronic variable valve timing, might make you forget the need for a V6, depending on the level of your need. It wasn't that long ago when we were saying the same thing about V6s versus V8s. It's all good. On that subjective subject of need, we can say that the 166-horsepower I4 gives you all the power you need for everyday driving, including on the freeway at 80 mph. We ran it there on a short road trip, and it was smooth and effortless. Its CVT kicked down for the long gradual uphills, invisibly, while maintaining the pace without much effort. There were no passengers with us for that run, and performance diminishes with each person you pile in. 

The 224-horsepower V6 will get you there faster, for a price, and it will tow another ton (3500 pounds vs. 1500 pounds), if you have a boat to go with your four or five kids. Like the four-cylinder, the efficiency of the V6 has been increased with engine redesigns for 2014. With either engine, the Outlander is classified as a low emissions vehicle, thanks to increased efficiency and cleaner exhaust systems. 

The 3.0-liter V6 comes with the all-wheel-drive GT model (but you can get all-wheel drive with the SE four-cylinder, too). The V6 is mated to a sweet 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. 

The four-cylinder uses a CVT, continuously variable transaxle. Mitsubishi has raised the bar, thanks to engineering that can finally make a CVT feel like an automatic transmission, and not weird like there's a giant rubber band connecting your engine to your wheels. Mitsubishi says they've been developing it for seven years, and we say bravo. 

While Outlander ES comes standard with front-wheel drive, the available all-wheel-drive system is one of the best, as Mitsubishi has decades of 4WD experience, with many world rally victories to prove it. They call it Super All-Wheel Control, or S-AWC, with Super meaning torque vectoring (shifting the power between the front wheels as needed for grip) to further improve control during cornering. This is the first time S-AWC has been available down to the four-cylinder SE model. 

The S-AWC system has been improved for 2014, and made lighter. It has four driving modes: ECO for fuel mileage (2WD), Normal, Snow and Lock, although Lock is a misnomer because it doesn't lock anything. It just provides the maximum percentage of drive to the rear wheels. 

The interior is also all new, with greatly improved materials including a soft-touch instrument panel, glossy black center console, and wood trim in the GT model. But mostly, the new Outlander is exceptionally quiet. Big, big improvement. No tricks, just more sound insulation material throughout the vehicle. Mitsubishi says they spent thousands of hours on reducing wind noise. 

The seats have been re-shaped, and the operation of the fold-flat 60/40 second row and 50/50 third row has been simplified. It works fast. 

Other refinements and standard additions include micron air filtering, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with cruise control and audio controls, remote keyless entry, security system with engine immobilizer, new 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, intermittent rear wiper with washer, and halogen headlights. 

The body is more than 200 pounds lighter, thanks to the use of more high-tensile steel, and the handling feels lighter as a result, although still not exactly nimble; after all, it is a seven-passenger vehicle. The switch to electric power steering adds to the light feel. Meanwhile, design changes to the suspension tighten the cornering. These include added subframes and stiffened strut mounts in front. 

The multi-link rear suspension uses lighter links to improve the ride, improved bushings to lessen NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), and low-friction seals in the axles to reduce rolling resistance, and improve fuel mileage (a new alternator with less drag is another). Lighter alloy wheels contribute to responsive handling. 

The improved four-cylinder engine features an aluminum block and the latest variable valve timing, which Mitsubishi calls MIVEC (the i is for innovative, not intelligent like the others). It makes 166 horsepower and 162 foot-pounds of torque at 4200 rpm. The numbers aren't big, but the power is good. 

Mitsubishi calls its shell Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE). There are energy absorbing sections in key areas of the body and chassis, including under the floor of the passenger compartment. Mitsubishi says the Outlander will receive a Top Pick safety award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Mitsubishi says the new styling of the 2014 Outlander is an urbane design that has more mainstream appeal than before. What they mean by that is the shark nose is gone, as in-your-face styling seems is a thing of the recent past. People have pulled back a bit lately, except maybe for television pundits. Besides, losing the nose was an aerodynamic necessity to get a 7 percent improvement that brings fuel mileage. Gone with the shark grille are the roof rails, in that pursuit of better aero and mileage. 

The new grille is a thin, wide, horizontal black slot, that's not really a slot, just mostly black plastic with some chrome plastic. It's a clean shape and design, but far from eye-catching. It's nice that there's not a bunch of funky stuff below the front bumper. 

The rockers are flat black, with a concave bit running along the bottom of the doors. There's one nice crease above the door handles that carries all the way to the top of the silvery taillights. 

There's a horizontal chrome strip under the rear window, like 90 percent of new vehicles on the planet. When Mitsubishi says the Outlander styling is all about less is more, you want to rip off the chrome to support them. 

It's really, really quiet inside the 2014 Outlander. It's so quiet that the tires sound loud; on some pavement they sound like they're groaning. We don't think they're any louder than before, just that the background noise is gone. Mitsubishi says they might look at quieter tires next time. We wonder why, when they go to all that trouble to make it quiet, wouldn't they do tire testing. 

But since the standard sound system has been upgraded, you can listen to nice music instead of the singing of the tires. 

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